© Sara Cameron Links | Terms and conditions
Much of this work was originally produced for UNICEF
Children make up more than half the population of Tanzania, yet because they have no vote their interests and rights have not been addressed by political parties or candidates during elections. The leading children’s organizations in Tanzania, working with the government and children themselves, developed The Children’s Agenda with the aim of influencing commitments to children in party manifestos and in key candidate campaigns during the October 2010 elections.
The Children’s Agenda has its origins in November 2009, during events marking the twentieth anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Consultations with children held in seven regions resulted in the Top Ten Questions that children wanted to ask the nation’s leaders. Elected representatives of the children interviewed civic, religious, business and media leaders as well as leading politicians with the results broadcast on national media. A multi-media campaign put the children’s questions before the public – including such questions as: “Most abused children do not know where to go for help! What will you do to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation?” and “More than one in four girls under 18 is already a mother! What will you do to reduce teenage pregnancy?”
In January 2010, members of the child-led Children’s Council agreed that the campaign should continue with the aim of ensuring children were heard during the 2010 elections. The children defined the Kiswahili slogan for the campaign which translates as “Let’s support leaders who care about children by defending their rights.”
The Top Ten Investments, which define the core messages of the Children’s Agenda, were based on the top ten questions defined by the children as well as analysis of the situation of children and discussion among key government and CSO partners. The Top Ten Investments are:
Children’s Agenda publications for children and adults, in Kiswahili and English, outlined the top ten investments and the most important actions that leaders should take to fulfill the rights of all Tanzania’s children, especially those who are most vulnerable. A monthly Children’s Agenda e-bulletin also went into production.
From April 2010, members of local CSOs began approaching the policy and manifesto committees of the political parties and for the first time discussed the place of child rights in the election. The Children’s Agenda representatives outlined the top ten investments for children, the key actions, and the risks of widening inequities as the poorest and most vulnerable children and families get left behind. In most cases, the party committees realized that they had not considered children as part of their campaigns, and some subsequently amended their manifestos. Local CSOs also secured signed commitments to the Children’s Agenda from more than 300 candidates for parliament or council seats. The President of Tanzania was interviewed by the Children’s Council on national television. The President also featured child survival and education messages on his campaign billboards, apparently for the first time. Consultations between children and civic and religious leaders, and candidates were held in 20 districts. Many of these discussions also featured on phone-in programmes on local radio. The Ministry of Community Development, Gender and Children pledged government support for the Children’s Agenda and urged partners to mobilize CSOs and local government across the country to increase investment in children. The campaign was backed by an extensive mass media campaign that put the top ten investments and key actions before the public.
The Children’s Agenda was initially developed for the Tanzania mainland, with a population of over 34m. A similar process was then introduced in Zanzibar with a population of 1.3m. The Zanzibar partners met and decided on an adaptation of the Children’s Agenda brand and modification of the top ten investments to suit the local context. The Zanzibar experience showed the flexibility of the Children’s Agenda strategy. Countries can use internal participatory processes to determine their own top ten investments based on local conditions, analysis and opportunities. The Children’s Agenda is not prescriptive – organizations use the key messages and actions of the top ten investments to strengthen their existing advocacy goals. This approach is central to sustainability.
Several important lessons were learned from the campaign. First that building the advocacy capacity of key partners is a key strategy for advancing the rights of the most vulnerable children. Many of the smallest and most financially fragile CSOs are working at the front lines with children who are at highest risk of falling through the cracks. Local CSOs, even those that are quite small, can have significant influence. Helping these organizations advocate for children more effectively also helps the children they serve. It is vital to maintain political neutrality during such a campaign. This can be achieved by encouraging all parties and candidates to make commitments to children – and the balance is more easily maintained by having a mix of international and local CSOs.
UNICEF played a key role in helping to develop the Children’s Agenda strategy, in coordination and in supporting the mass media campaign. Maintaining a low profile for the UNICEF brand was essential for building trust, and expanding the partnership. Keeping the focus on the issues facing children was far more important than the promotion of any agency or organization brand.
As a result of the campaign, political parties that had previously not considered children made changes to their manifestos, and many more members of parliament and councilors are aware that children should be considered during elections – yet there is still a long way to go. The members of the Children’s Agenda have developed a multi-year advocacy initiative – to increase understanding of child rights among parliamentarians and local government, and ensure appropriate budget allocations to fulfill the Agenda.
Top: The Children’s Agenda logo
Below: Representatives of the Children’s Agenda interview President Kikwete. The hour-long programme was broadcast on national TV and radio.
Click photo to enlarge
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